“Thanksgiving Day As Observed In This Community” [Dexter, Iowa, 1920s]

There’s no date on this one, but among former Dexter residents who returned to watch the game was Keith Neal, who was the older brother of Kenneth and M.M. Keith’s last child born in Dexter was Merritt Winsell (named for the first Dexter boy killed in WWI, but called “Bud”) in 1920. His next children, Mary Marjorie (named for M.M. Neal’s twin sister) was born in Des Moines in 1922 (as were the rest of Keith and Cora’s 10 children).

So, after 1922, Dexter newspaper:

“Morning Busy, Noon Very Full, Afternoon Exciting, and Evening Very Peaceful.

“Thanksgiving Day in the morning. Sun came up bright and warming after several days of cold weather. Everyone woke to find nature adding its bit to the general spirit of holiday. Those, who had not arrived the night before, came in the morning to be on deck at the various family dinners in the community. Mothers stuffed chickens, ducks or turkeys, chucked them in the oven, and started all other good things for the huge Thanksgiving dinners. Last minute shopping was done; tables were set and extra leaves added to the dining room tables; everyone was very, very busy. Shortly before ten o’clock, like Pilgrims of old in modern dress, folk wended their way to church to give public thanks to the giver of all good gifts. Union services were held by the Presbyterians and Methodists in the Presbyterian church, and the Lutherans held services in their church.

“Thanksgiving Day at noon.

“Everyone sat down to overladen tables, with all the children home to take in mother’s stuffed turkey and cranberry sauce. From the supplies of the more fortunate had come chickens and the trimmings to spread Thanksgiving cheer in other less favored homes, so that nowhere in this community could there be a dinnerless Thanksgiving Day. And still the sun shone and the day was fair. And everyone ate too much.

Trophy for the annual Dexter-Earlham Thanksgiving rivalry is now housed in the Earlham Community School, Earlham, Iowa. It was played every Thanksgiving from 1912-1944. (Thanks to Cody Thompson for the photo!)

“Thanksgiving Day in the afternoon. Nearly 2:30. Everyone grabbed coats and hats and galoshes to go to the big football game held in Dexter this year. The unusually fine weather brought out a large crowd of Dexter and Earlham fans. Fences went down on both sides, as per usual, from the pushing, cheering, excited rooters, Earlham and Dexter bands played. Everybody yelled. Folk were there who had not been back to see a Thanksgiving game for more years than they cared to remember. Saw Fred Wolfinger, who had decided at his dinner table in Des Moines that he wanted to see Dexter and Earlham play again and whom we heard say as he left the field, “Good game. Glad we came.” Also saw Homer Bosley, Bill Vogel, Howard Calfee, Carl Hodson, Albert Gilleland, Keith Neal, Dewey McMurray, and other former Dexter residents. Fine old spirit of football rivalry pervaded the crowds with none of the old animosity. Dexter won, 6-0, by good straight football. Great game! Great deal of excitement.

“Thanksgiving Day in the evening. Plenty left over from dinner for the evening meal. Some visitors left after the game, others stayed for the weekend with the home folk. Fine edge of the afternoon hilarity and excitement worn off and a feeling of peace settled over the community. Lighted windows showed small family groups gathered about the fire, reading, visiting, being thankful for each other and the good things of the day. The end of a perfect Thanksgiving Day.”


    • This one continued until WWII but is still fondly remembered by us “kids” of the ones who participated, and who talked about it for years afterwards! May you have a blessed Thanksgiving as well. I pray for you and your two special ladies often.

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